Richens: Combat sports punch above weight

02:45, Aug 01 2014
David Light
KIWI IN THE MEDALS: Boxer David Light (red) throws a punch in the Games quarterfinal he would win against Kenya's Charles Odhiambo Okoth.

Combat sports have thrown, wrestled and punched above their weight at the Commonwealth Games leaving high profile sports like triathlon and swimming splashing around aimlessly in the shallow end of their respective pools.

Judo, wrestling and boxing will contribute nine medals to New Zealand's overall tally in Glasgow this year and are on the improve.

While judo wasn't on the Delhi run-sheet, boxing and wrestling were and came home empty-handed.

In the four years since, High Performance Sport New Zealand has funded wrestling to the tune of ... nothing.

And they've won two medals.

View Stuff's Commonwealth Games medal table.


Boxing received $409,250 in the same period and will come home with medals to David Light and David Nyika and have been far more competitive in Glasgow than in recent years. Judo received nothing and picked up five medals.

The judoka have been the revelation of the New Zealand team taking the opportunity to remind the country the sport, which was huge worldwide, though tiny in New Zealand, was producing top level athletes against the odds.

A little over $400,000 was spent on all three combat sports and they clocked up nine medals. Triathlon and swimming have had millions thrown at them and not delivered much at all.

Andrea Hewitt went close, but the triathletes would return to New Zealand empty-handed while if it hadn't been for Lauren Boyle and Sophie Pascoe in the pool, the swim team too would have nothing to show for their Games.

An argument about the legitimacy or strength of combat sports falls flat too. They're all worldwide sports and while the powerful European teams weren't in Scotland, some of the power-houses were.

The home nations were hugely strong in the boxing ring and on the judo mat while wrestling's heavy hitters Nigeria and India had world class wrestlers in nearly each weight class.

Boxing had the right idea. After instruction from the NZOC, they made qualification to the Games team tougher.

No longer was being competitive in Oceania good enough, fighters had to prove themselves further afield. It cost money - more than they had - and many boxers had to pay their own way, mostly to Europe and Asia.

But they're better for it; they're better for the competition, exposure to different styles and experience.

Top New Zealand triathletes and swimmers - through funding - have those opportunities already and battled.

No-one was questioning their work ethic or sacrifice, but the current programme wasn't working.  

They've got the money, they've got the profile, but were unable to get the results.

Swimming received more than 21 times the amount boxing gets and boxing was considered lucky by judo and wrestling.

None of the triathletes looked a medal chance at Rio in two years and in the pool Boyle was the only one you would consider even an outside shot.

The Glasgow Games weren't going to mean millions for the combat sports and the best the likes of wrestling and judo could hope for was an influx in numbers.

The ones that were out there, using loans, parents' savings or their own pocket money to do it deserved some help.

If they can get to this level on the bones of their backsides, imagine what's possible with a little backing.